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A reader identified as Don H. holds a copy of 'My Life Before the War, 1860-1917: A Memoir by General John J. Pershing'

The University Press of Kentucky is giving free e-books to readers who own hard copies of titles and engage with the publishing company via social media.

Book owners can submit a photo of themselves holding a hard copy of a University Press of Kentucky book on Tumblr, and the company will send them the e-book version. The press decided to start the e-book loyalty program after recognizing that many readers who own hard copies of books might also like to own the electronic version, but don't want to pay the additional cost for the e-book, said Mack McCormick, director of publicity.

“It’s a great way to increase brand loyalty and to increase awareness of us as a publisher,” he said.

The Association of American University Presses has not heard of any other presses creating similar initiatives, spokeswoman Regan Colestock wrote in an email. The University of Chicago Press has offered one free title in e-book format each month since November 2009, said Dean Blobaum, e-commerce manager. Often, the press offers titles that are the first in a multivolume collection or feature a work of an author who has recently released a new book, he said.  Between 2,000 and 4,000 readers download the book each month, he said, but because the press owns BiblioVault, a digital asset management unit of the press, it does not incur costs from providing the e-books.

The University Press of Kentucky offers 476 titles as e-books. The press waited until it had several hundred of its roughly 2,400 books available in e-book format before launching the loyalty program in August, McCormick said.

It does cost the company some money to send e-books. McCormick declined to give a figure, but he said the cost was minimal. The list prices for most titles are the same for all formats and are between $15 and $50, he said.

So far, readers have submitted photos of themselves holding books including How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders, by Maryjean Wall; Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics, edited by Justin S. Vaughn and Lilly J. Gorenand and A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music, by Jason Howard.

The e-book version of How Kentucky Became Southern is $29.95; the paperback version is $19.95.  The price is $40 each for the physical or the electronic version of Women and the White House.

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